Tag Archives: weekly writing tips

Running with the Theme

Here’s a fun game—spot the theme, as stated in the first half of the first act of the novel or film, usually by a supporting character or similar. What about the moment in Spectre when Moneypenny, on the phone with Bond, tells James she can’t help him just then because she has a life, and he should get one too?  Because, there may be shooting, peril, fab inventions, and mad escapes, but in my view (not the only view, obviously) the film’s theme is, It’s hard to get a life, when you’re Bond.

 Your Writing Tip: Run with the Theme.

In The Wizard of Oz, look for Professor Marvel to state the theme in his conversation with the runaway Dorothy in Act 1. The theme is repeated throughout. There’s no place like home. So, for a strong line, write out the theme 3-6 different ways. You can use each of these in strong but subtle ways to draw out the theme throughout the story.

One Theme, Several Ways.

Here’s part of a list of different views on the same theme that I wrote for ‘Stella Ryman and the Ghost at the End of the Bed’, the ninth Fairmount Manor Mystery novella starring my octogenarian sleuth, trapped in a down-at-heel care home. (Pulp Literature, Issue 16.)

  1. Reach out or die.
  2. Without connection, we’re just bundles of cells in fleece warm-up suits.
  3. If we can let go of loving people, we might form new and greater passions. What would they be?
  4. Or, maybe it’s the other way around, and all the love we feel makes supports for more passions.
  5. In Fairmount Manor we residents are like hermits or saints, who must connect to nature because we’ve cut ties with the world.

(The author takes no responsibility for the views of her characters.)

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.  Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

Five Minutes, Five Stories: Pulp Literature Writing Tips

Even at the start of a new tale, it’s worth thinking about the next five stories in your body of work.

“Yes, the story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.” Jules Renard.

Talk about your cool self-confidence, Jules Renard. But it’s possible, even probable, that all our stories exist in Renard’s “some place,” viz. the fertile fields of our writing minds. It’s tempting to push these upcoming stories away to concentrate on the work at hand.

Visit five future tales

Without sacrificing progress on a work-in-progress, it’s worth taking a look now and then at the broader creative vista.

Your writing tip: take five

Take five minutes to list the next five tales before you. Your writing mind will benefit from this ‘heads-up’ (pun intended) on future plotting. And, in this way you remind yourself that you are not only writing, you are a writer by trade, and yours is a great future in our field.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.

Cheers, Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. 

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

 

The One Word Writing Tip

Some movie titles resonate over the decades, with just a single word:
GreedSupermanHeistMementoCharade.

 One Great Word

I’ve been reading Michael Connelly’s The Crossing. I admire the way he joins the inner and outer conflicts in the single word, crossing. The outer problem is finding the point of crossing between victim and murderer. The inner problem is that hero ex-cop Bosch faces crossing a line he swore he’d never cross, in order to solve a murder mystery.

Your Writing Tip: One Word Two Ways

Find one word that describes your protagonist’s story. You get bonus points for pulling off a similar grand feat as the one above. That is, connecting the inner and outer struggle through a single word with two meanings. Moments of clarity like this may help inform an entire story and save truckloads of revision time.

I hope you’ll have another  brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, pick up her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

This is the End. Writing Tips at Pulp Literature Press

Sometimes the end of the book seems so far off that a writer starts to feel that fashions will have changed and technology moved on to a still more distant generation before we’re likely to finish it.

The End is Closer Than You Think

Still, objects in the rearview mirror, and all that. The end is nearer than you’d think, so long as you keep this writing destination in mind. The writing brain knows its business, but if an author can’t picture the final scene, the brain is likely to follow its many interests, tracking a long and winding road through the story map. And then … massive rewriting.

Start With the End in Mind

When starting a story, take a few minutes to write the end. This could be

  • the last word,
  • the last sentence,
  • the last paragraph,
  • the final scene.

Set a timer and write for 10 minutes. Remind yourself that you are the respectful and fun boss of you, and you can change it completely if you like.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

 

Tough Choices = Character Development

“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.” ― Robert McKeeStory: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting.

Consider a number of things that are wrong in a protagonist’s life at the start of the story. Listing them, either before or during development,  produces a template for character development.

Character Development via Tough Choices

Inner and outer problems set the stage for tough and even impossible choices.  The protagonist will have to do what she or he would never have done earlier in the book. That, in a nutshell, is character development. Supporting characters and antagonists go through this process, too, but their real job is to force the protagonist to make those choices.

Choices: Your Writing Tip

Make a list of 6-10 things wrong in your protagonist’s interior and exterior life at the start of the book. The protagonist’s tough choices in dealing with these inner and outer problems drives your story ahead.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens.  She is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. 

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires

 

 

 

 

Brainstorming Turning Points

Listing at least ten ideas for each turning point in a tale is tough digging. Still, brainstorming is a reliable practice for raising stakes and ensuring brilliant character development in a narrative.

Digging Deep via Brainstorming

For example, your Act 2 or, as Campbell and Vogler* call it, the “Belly of the Beast” section, is packed with energy. It’s filled with trials and learning for your protagonist and allies. I see a lot of good writers rushing into writing a first, not bad, but somewhat obvious idea, when they might have found a great one by digging deeper. Quick plotting shows. An Act 2 succeeds when authors dig deep for ideas. That shows, too, and keeps us all turning pages.

More Brainstorming, Less Revision

When writers take time for this sort of intense planning, stories grow in strength and originality.

Your career is right on track. I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career.
Cheers, Mel.

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume.

Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires.

 

 

* Christopher Vogler. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Third Edition. Michael Weise Productions, Studio City Ca, 2007.

 

 

An Editor Dishes on Story Submissions

We’ll soon be reading manuscripts for acquisition again at Pulp Literature Press. What strikes me first is the talent that comes through our e-portals.  Space is an issue, and we wish we could take more stories, if only our magazine had a thousand pages.  As well, we’ll often reject a story because we’ve published our quota of, for example, zombie tales.  Or … we’re looking for more zombie tales.

Other than fit, what do I look for in stories for our quarterly, and in novels for our press?

Here are three great reasons I read on.

These may be worth identifying as a time-saving effort for any submission.

  1. The author nails time, place, tone, promise of genre, and a hint at the central conflict on page one, often paragraph one, and continues to do so with the start of each new scene.
  2. It’s clear that the writer has dug deep for ideas for turning points, that are possibly archetypical, but not clichéd, within the genre.
  3. I can tell a fellow editor what this story is about in a sentence and we’ll both still want to know what happens. It’s about a guy who’s ambushed and sent into 30 years of cryogenic sleep, and has to return to his own past to get even and create a better future, second time around. (The Door Into Summer, Robert Heinlein.)

When it comes down to it, as an acquisitions editor, I’m also an avid reader.  I hope to be a big fan of your work.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week.  Cheers, Mel


If you’re a fan of Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, you might enjoy her pocket-sized writing guide The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume. Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires you through 30 days of hints and help with narrative structure.

From Pulp Literature Press

 

Great Openings Via Tone and Setting


Establishing tone and setting right away is a good way to get point of view quickly and firmly established.  It’s not the only way to begin — we certainly read successful starts composed of rants, reflections, and resonant difficulties.  But, it might be worth our while to examine some excellent examples of authors establishing their authority with POV through tone and setting.

“A big noisy wind out of the northeast, full of a February chill, herded the tourists off the afternoon beach, driving them to cover, complaining bitterly.”

-The Quick Red Fox, John D MacDonald 

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.  The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot.”

-Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt 

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

– Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

Sometimes, if a writer is dissatisfied with the start, it may be worthwhile to dig about the first pages of the work, where lines like these may be lurking unnoticed, and try one of them as line one of the tale.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseYour amazing ending complements your story beautifully. You saw it from the start. Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

 

  

Carving Out Writing Time

Of course, we love our work and so we’re motivated to make time for it. But, make time out of what?  Busy lives, demands from family, friends, home, and work appear to fill every day to bursting.

Carving moments of peace for employing our drafting skills — and for anything else, for that matter — is a skill in itself.  We blink, and the better part of the day is gone.  All we have left are a couple of hours best spent not with brandy in the basement, typing madly into the night, but with our loved ones, building lives and memories and getting ourselves and our writing brains  a good night’s sleep.

One way to approach carving out times of serenity is to begin by imagining the goal. Picture ourselves at our favourite time of day for drafting, in our favourite writing place. For many of us, we feel freshest in the morning.  And, we probably have an hour or two, within a morning or two during the week that is at least meant to be under our control.

The next step is to look at this block of time.   What activity fills it now?

Can it be canned, or perhaps chunked through the week, like shopping or cleaning?  Or, if it’s a wonderful activity, could it move to the afternoon or evening?

And if it can’t be canned, moved, or spread throughout the week, for example if you’re dealing with a 24/7 boss, or tiny children, it’s worth remembering the words of a friend of mine:  “There’s a time for everything, and your time will come.”

Because, when life really is too busy to write, that’s when we gain experiences to write about.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuse: Stuck for an idea, you list 20 ways it could happen. Superb writing practice. Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

Writers’ Block Busting

As a mystery writer, I love misdirection, because it sets me to investigating.  Quick and unhelpful answers to writing questions are some of my favourite black boxes.

The knee jerk answer we all get when we ask, “Why am I stuck?” is, “Writers’ block”.  Litmus test on this answer:  Quick?  Sure.  Unhelpful?  Totally.  So why do we accept this answer?  I’ll tell you why some of us accept it, it’s because if we have writers’ block then that’s proof we’re actually writers. So, once we relax and agree we really are writers, just as we have always wished to be, let’s deal with the serious issue of being stuck.

If we’re stuck, it’s like being stuck in any aspect of our lives that is getting us down.  It means we don’t have excellent goals to keep us interested, excited, and on track.  In writing, goals mean outlining.  So, when brainpages adhere one to the other, one way to get unstuck is

  1. Procure a timer
  2. Set the timer for 5 minutes
  3. Outline the beginning, middle, and end of your story for 1 character.  I often use the story evolution page from the brilliant First Draft in 30 Days : A Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript(Paperback) – 2005 Edition 
    by Karen Wiesner

Repeat as necessary, for more characters, until the writing mind is raring to go.

In order to avoid getting stuck at all, outlining this way in odd 5 or 10 minute parcels of time during the week works wonders.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant writing week. Cheers Mel

muse smallThis week from @yourwritingmuseWriting down your great goals fuels your writing career beautifully. Admirable practise.  Your Writing Muse #amwriting @pulpliterature

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